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Indonesian Language Derives Words from Other Languages

The Dutch colonisation left an imprint on
the Indonesian language that can be seen
in words such as polisi (from politie =
police), kualitas (from kwaliteit = quality),
wortel (from wortel = carrot), kamar (from
kamer = room, chamber), rokok (from
roken = smoking cigarettes), korupsi (from
corruptie = corruption), persneling (from
versnelling = gear), kantor (from kantoor =
office), resleting (from ritssluiting =
zipper), and kelas (from klas = class).
Alongside Malay, Portuguese was the
lingua franca for trade throughout the
archipelago from the sixteenth century
through to the early nineteenth century.
Indonesian words derived from Portuguese
include sabun (from sabão = soap), meja
(from mesa = table), boneka (from boneca
= doll), jendela (from janela = window),
gereja (from igreja = church), bola (from
bola = ball), bendera (from bandeira =
flag), roda (from roda = wheel), gagu
(from gago = stutterer), sepatu (from
sapato = shoes), kereta (from carreta =
wagon), bangku (from banco = chair), keju
(from queijo = cheese), garpu (from garfo
= fork), terigu (from trigo = flour),
mentega (from manteiga = butter), Sabtu
(from sábado = Saturday) (or the Arabic
Sabt = Saturday) and Minggu (from
domingo = Sunday).[5]
Some of the many words of Chinese origin
(presented here with accompanying
Hokkien/ Mandarin pronunciation
derivatives as well as traditional and
simplified characters) include pisau (匕首
bǐshǒu – knife), loteng, (楼/层 = lóu/céng –
[upper] floor/ level), mie (麵 > 面 Hokkien
mī – noodles), lumpia (潤餅 (Hokkien =
lūn-piáⁿ) – springroll), cawan, (茶碗
cháwǎn – teacup), teko (茶壺 > 茶壶 =
cháhú [Mandarin], teh-ko [Hokkien] =
teapot), kuli = khu (bitter) and li (energy)
and even the widely used slang terms gua
and lu (from the Hokkien 'goa' 我 and 'lu/
li' 你 – meaning 'I/ me' and 'you'). From
Sanskrit came words such as kaca (glass,
mirror), raja (king), manusia (mankind)
bumi/ dunia (earth/ world) and agama
(religion). Words ofArabic origin include
kabar (news), selamat/ salam (a greeting),
senin (Monday), selasa (Tuesday), jumat
(Friday), ijazah (diploma), hadiah (gift/
present), mungkin (from mumkin =
perhaps), maklum (understood), kitab
(book), tertib (orderly) and kamus
(dictionary). There are also words derived
fromJavanese, e.g. aku (meaning I/ me
(informal) and its derivative form,
mengaku (to admit or confess).
Indonesian as a modern dialect of Malay
has borrowed heavily from many
languages, including:Sanskrit, Arabic,
Persian, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and
many other languages, including other
Austronesian languages. It is estimated
that there are some 750 Sanskrit
loanwords in modern Indonesian, 1,000
Arabic loans, some ofPersian and Hebrew
origin, some 125 words of Portuguese
(alsoSpanish and Italian) origin and a
staggering number of some 10,000
loanwords from Dutch.[6] The latter also
comprises many words from other
European languages, which came via Dutch,
the so-called "International Vocabulary".
The vast majority of Indonesian words,
however, come from the root lexical stock
of its Austronesian (incl. Old Malay)
Although Hinduism and Buddhism are no
longer the major religions of Indonesia,
Sanskrit which was the language vehicle
for these religions, is still held in high
esteem and is comparable with the status
ofLatin in English and other Western
European languages. Residents of Bali and
Java tend to be particularly proud of the
Hindu-Buddhist heritage. Sanskrit is also
the main source forneologisms. These are
usually formed from Sanskrit roots. The
loanwords from Sanskrit cover many
aspects ofreligion, art and everyday life.
The Sanskrit influence came from contacts
withIndia long ago before the time of
Christ. The words are either directly
borrowed from India or with the
intermediary of theOld Javanese language.
In the classical language of Java, Old
Javanese, the number of Sanskrit
loanwords is far greater. The Old Javanese
— English dictionary by prof.P.J.
Zoetmulder, S.J. (1982) contains no fewer
than 25,500 entries. Almost half are
Sanskrit loanwords. Sanskrit loanwords,
unlike those from other languages, have
entered the basic vocabulary of Indonesian
to such an extent that, for many, they are
no longer perceived to be foreign.
The loanwords from Arabic are mainly
concerned with religion, in particular with
Islam, as can be expected. Allah is the word
for God even in Christian Bible translations.
Many early Bible translators, when they
came across some unusualHebrew words
or proper names, used the Arabic cognates.
In the newer translations this practice is
discontinued. They now turn toGreek
names or use the original Hebrew Word.
For example, the nameJesus was initially
translated as 'Isa, but is now spelt as Yesus.
Psalms used to be translated as Zabur, the
Arabic name, but now it is called Mazmur
which corresponds more with Hebrew.
Loanwords from Portuguese are common
words, which were mainly connected with
articles the early European traders and
explorers brought to Southeast Asia. The
Portuguese were among the first
westerners to sail east to the "Spice
The Chinese loanwords are usually
concerned with cuisine, trade or often just
exclusively things Chinese. There is a
considerable Chinese presence in the whole
of Southeast Asia. According to the 2000
census, the relative number of people of
Chinese descent in Indonesia is almost 1%,
although this may likely be an
The former colonial power, the
Netherlands, left an impressive vocabulary.
These Dutch loanwords, and also from
other non Italo-Iberian, European
languages loanwords which came via
Dutch, cover all aspects of life. Some Dutch
loanwords, having clusters of several
consonants, pose difficulties to speakers of
Indonesian. This problem is usually solved
by insertion of the schwa. For example
Dutch schroef [ˈsxruf] → sekrup [səˈkrup].
As modern Indonesian draws many of its
words from foreign sources, there are
manysynonyms. For example, Indonesian
has three words for "book", i.e. pustaka
(from Sanskrit), kitab (from Arabic) and
buku (from Dutch). These words have,
unsurprisingly, slightly different meanings.
A pustaka is often connected with ancient
wisdom or sometimes with esoteric
knowledge. A derived form, perpustakaan
means a library. A kitab is usually a
religious scripture or a book containing
moral guidances. The Indonesian words for
theBible and Gospel are Alkitab and Injil,
both directly derived from Arabic. The book
containing the penal code is also called the
kitab. Buku is the most common word for
In addition to those above (and the
borrowed words listed under the sub-
heading History towards the top of this
article), there are also direct borrowings
from various other languages of the world,
such as "karaoke" fromJapanese, and
"modem" from English.
Generally Indonesian does not make use of
grammatical gender, and there are only
selected words that use natural gender. For
instance, the same word is used for he and
she (dia/ia) or for his and her (dia/ia/-nya).
No real distinction is made between
"girlfriend" and "boyfriend", both pacar
(although more colloquial terms as cewek
girl/girlfriend and cowok guy/boyfriend
can also be found). A majority of
Indonesian words that refer to people
generally have a form that does not
distinguish between the sexes. However,
unlike English, distinction is made between
older or younger (a characteristic quite
common to many Asian languages). For
example, adik refers to a younger sibling of
either gender and kakak refers to an older
sibling, again, either male or female. In
order to specify the natural gender of a
noun, an adjective must be added. Thus,
adik laki-laki corresponds to "younger
brother" but really means "male younger
There are some words that are gendered,
for instance putri means "daughter", and
putra means "son" and also pramugara
means "air steward" (male flight
attendant) and pramugari meaning "air
stewardess" (female flight attendant).
Another example would be olahragawan,
which equates to "sportsman", and
olahragawati, meaning sportswoman.
Often, words like these (or certain suffixes
such as "-a" and "-i" or "-wan" and "wati")
are absorbed from other languages (in
these cases, from Sanskrit through the Old
Javanese language). In some regions of
Indonesia such as Sumatera and Jakarta,
abang (a gender-specific term meaning
"older brother") is commonly used as a
form of address for older siblings/ males,
whilst kakak (a non-gender specific term
(meaning "older sibling") is often used to
mean "older sister". Similarly, more direct
influences from dialects such as Javanese
and Chinese languages have also seen
further use of other gendered words in
Indonesian. For example: Mas (Jav. = older
brother), M'bak (Jav. = older sister), Koko
(older brother) and Cici (older sister).
Spoken & informal Indonesian
In very informal spoken Indonesian,
various words are replaced with those of a
less formal nature (e.g. tidak (no) is often
replaced with the Javanese nggak whilst
seperti (like, similar to) is often replaced
with kayak (pronounced kai-yah)). As for
pronunciation, the diphthongs ai and au on
the end of base words are typically
pronounced as /e/ and /o/. In informal
writing the spelling of words is modified to
reflect the actual pronunciation in a way
that can be produced with less effort. E.g.:
capai becomes cape or capek, pakai
become pake, kalau becomes kalo.
In verbs, the prefix me- is often dropped,
although an initial nasal consonant is
usually retained. E.g.: mengangkat
becomes ngangkat (the basic word is
angkat). The suffixes -kan and -i are often
replaced by -in. E.g.: mencarikan becomes
nyariin, menuruti becomes nurutin. The
latter grammatical aspect is one often
closely related to Indonesian found in
Jakarta and surrounding areas.


About Sugih

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